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Hong Kong International Airport: A leading transport hub for pharmaceutical cargo

The world’s busiest cargo airport continues to enhance its ability to capture fast growing markets

Rising affluence and living standards, most notably in Asia and Mainland China, is driving global demand for high-value products, particularly temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals. The trend calls for quality cold chain solution to provide assurance in transportation and storage condition for these products. The rise in demand for time and temperature sensitive shipments and growth of international trade has given a significant boost to the global cold chain logistics market. Research projected that the market will register a CAGR of 17.9% from 2019 to 2026 while Asia-Pacific will continue to account for the highest share1.

Pharmaceutical is a fast-growing segment in cargo industry. According to Seabury Consulting, pharma shipments are expected to grow at 16% annually from 2016 to 2023 at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). HKIA, as a transshipment hub for pharmaceuticals, is committed to offering peace of mind for the forwarders and shippers.

To protect product integrity on one hand and maximize shelf life on the other, pharmaceuticals require stringent control processes throughout the logistics chain and are best served by air cargo. In respond to the needs, HKIA has pioneered new service offerings to provide shippers a unique quality assurance.

Quality assurance for pharma shippers

In January 2019, HKIA announced collaboration with Brussels Airport, Europe’s key air cargo hub for pharmaceutical shipments, to launch an airport-to-airport Pharma Corridor (Pharma Corridor) under Pharma.Aero, a cross-industry international collaboration platform. Both airports have attained the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) by community approach; certifying all air cargo service providers at both ends adhering to the highest standards in handling pharmaceutical shipments. Connected by Cathay Pacific, also an IATA CEIV Pharma certified carrier that offers direct service between two places, a seamless temperature-controlled chain of handling from origin airport to destination airport is materialized. Coupledwith sophisticated cold storage and cool dollies for apron transportation, HKIA and Brussels are committed to pioneering a trustworthy model and proving that is what the shippers ultimately want.

The Pharma Corridor is the first of its kind to invite leading pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Merck Sharp & Dohme, to take part in. Besides standard Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Key Performance Indexes (KPIs) were set up to stress test the corridor in terms of product temperature, documentation, security, lead times of handling processes, and quality and product integrity.

A trial including close to 50 live shipments with various temperature profile and packaging have been completed and fully analyzed. A dashboard recording the end-to-end shipment activities has offered unprecedented visibility on the actual performance. Report shows the consolidated effort of two CEIV Pharma certified airport communities have achieved zero case of temperature excursion and over 95% fulfillment for all KPIs. After monitoring a predominant majority of shipments that have been transported by cool dollies on ramp at both airports, result corroborates its effectiveness in protecting shipments from prolonged exposure to ambient temperature. The study reaffirms the handling along the Pharma Corridor consistently adheres to high CEIV Pharma standards.

From now on, shippers whenever shipping via Pharma Corridor, they can be provided with full confidence and peace of mind that their shipments are well taken care of. Apart from acknowledging the quality assurance is indeed in place, the quality handling of Pharma Corridor also creates the opportunities for shippers and handling agents to further optimize their packaging and operating procedures that cater to the peculiarity of different products.

Moving forward, HKIA and Brussels Airport are now working to expand the corridor network to other qualified airports, with an aim to form a network of Pharma Corridors, offering shippers the quality choices to ensure their products to reach more corners of the globe intact and efficiently.

In parallel, HKIA continues to invest in cold chain facilities and apron shelters, that add another layer to protect pharmaceutical shipments from direct weather elements, would be available in mid-2020. By attaining CEIV Pharma accreditations and pioneering the world’s first Pharma Corridor, HKIA continues its dedication to serve pharma shippers with comprehensive facilities.

--Issue 38--

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